Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Back to Berkeley (for the third time...)

How lovely to be greeted by flowers.
We flew in to SFO early on a Sunday morning,  in fact the plane was half an hour early.  Lovely Philip and Sonya picked us up and we had a good run to Berkeley, where we found Monica wiping down benches and making the house nice for us. See the vase of gorgeous flowers from the garden that she left on the dining room table for us - she is a real flower-lover, and I will take a leaf from her book (pun intended)  and keep a little vase of flowers on the bathroom shelf and others around the house as long as the garden is blooming.

View from the kitchen window looking South-West
It is great to be back in this house on Santa Barbara Road where we stayed the first time Barry was invited to teach at Berkeley just two years ago. The views are gorgeous, though the trees behind have grown a lot and partially obscure the great sweep across to the Bay Bridge and San Francisco and the Golden Gate bridge on the other side.  Apparently they have had a cold, wet and foggy summer so far, though since we have arrived most afternoons have been beautifully sunny (I am claiming credit for bringing the sunshine).  And though the garden is considerably less prolific than it was two years ago, I have picked a few cherry tomatoes, some herbs, and just a few of the very heavy crop of lemons.  I bought some shelled edamame (soy beans) at the supermarket and made them into a salad with the cherry tomatoes and an invented soy balsamic vinaigrette using lots of fresh mint, thyme, oregano and rosemary from the garden. The salad looked so pretty I composed the still life below:
Bountiful harvest once again.

Sally was in Wyoming when we arrived and had left us her car keys for the week, so we were able to do lots of food shopping and go to the movies at night with ease.  I also drove a little way to join a car pool for a Tertulia in Oakland. And we took BART downtown to San Francisco to go to the Australian Consulate to vote for the Federal Elections, though unfortunately our Kooyong-based votes won't resolve the electoral deadlock when they eventually get counted.  I also tried out a  new  hairdresser, with somewhat mixed results.  She was unhappy with the first colour she did so insisted on redoing it - my scalp is not yet fully recovered, and I am wondering how quickly the colour, originally purple, now a bit orange, will fade, though the cut so far seems quite decent. 

I also had a very exciting trip to Costco with Sonya, and bought heaps of stuff so that the freezer is now very well-stocked.  I was thinking ahead to when I head off to the East Coast for the Jewish Holidays and Barry will be fending for himself for 3 weeks.  Last time I went to this temple to consumption, it was close to the end of our stay here last year,  and the quantities that you need to buy were way too large to consume in a couple of weeks.  But Sonya and I decided to split a few things, which made it more fun and enabled me to try a few new things, like a couple of varieties of their ravioli ( for Barry), juices, and hummus.  And we both managed to resist buying the tira misu cake I discovered last time, which is absolutely delicious but would have been ultimately destructive of months of successful weight watching. It's the kind of dessert I should only buy to take to someone else's house - let them worry about the left-overs, which I found totally irresistible while it remained  in my fridge. We also bought their roast garlic bread, beautiful crusty loaves studded with sweet roasted garlic cloves. I froze 1 1/2 loaves and left half a loaf to eat fresh - yum.  And Sonya and Philip really liked it too. It was still warm when we bought it, so you can imagine the fragrance in the car going home!  

The sheer profusion of stuff, clothes,  consumer durables, household goods, electronics, and food, fresh produce as well as packaged goods, is mind-blowing.  And to see masses of people with their giant trolleys stocking up is quite an experience.  I can't imagine what it would seem like to someone from an under-developed country. I haven't yet seen the Costco that opened in Melbourne last year while we were away, and don't know if it has quite the variety one sees here. . We have the same problem there as here - if we are only in Melbourne for less than 6 months, unless we are in some kind of collective purchasing group, our little household of two just doesn't consume that much, so bulk buying is not necessarily smart consumer behaviour.

Pavement level view of pooch refreshment centre

We had use of Sally's car for another half day before she reclaimed it, and it was a gorgeous sunny day on Sunday , so we went down to 4th St, where there are very smart designer stores and some good food to be had.  I got down on the pavement and took a dog's eye view of this pooch drinking station outside a dog-loving optometrist's  store.
We wandered through the outlet store of Crate and Barrel, a thankless task as we are not in a position to buy any home-wares, however much of a bargain or interesting they seem. I have discovered that if I don't want to buy something, I don't actually like window shopping.  When I am not actively seeking something to wear, I don't even want to go looking at clothes or shoes.  I am just not that interested in what is in season or what is around in the stores until such time as I decide I need something to wear to a specific occasion or to replace an outgrown or outworn item.  Odd to discover this at 65, but it has been coming on for about 10 years now!

Long queue looking pretty animated
As we left the store we had to negotiate our way through a long line of people queuing up for something, which turned out to be cupcakes in a mobile van. 

Guess the cupcakes must be really good!
There were of course several bookstores to visit. Also one of the pet shelters has a little stand on the street, with pets ready for adoption then and there. In some of the larger puppy pens there were a few kids playing with the puppies, so cute - kids and puppies - but in this stage of our life where we spend as much time overseas as at home, we can't have pets, but we do miss them so much. 
Pets (not kids) for adoption on 4th Street.

Our Berkeley neighbours' dog, Milhaus, has been ailing for some time and died on Friday night, and in one of the stores I found a whole range of cards offering sympathy for the loss of a pet - I am tempted to say only in America, but has anyone seen these in Australia? Most of them were very nice, and the one I chose featured a doggie door in the Pearly Gates.  Our sympathy is very real.  It is a little over a year since we lost our beloved Jesse and I still miss him frequently, and I miss our cats  too - we lost a generation of pets in a couple of years, and we know that a companion animal who has been with you more than a dozen years really does leave a big hole.  Milhaus is buried next door under a big oak tree and the neighbours are adding tributes to his grave.  He would love to look through the recycle bins on Tuesday mornings (open blue boxes here, rather than wheelie bins) for small empty water bottles which he loved to chew on and flatten. Someone has put one of these there, there is a tennis ball, a pine cone (which Jesse also loved to collect and play with), photos and a couple of articles about dogs that friends and family have emailed.

1 comment:

Decima said...

I haven't seen sympathy cards for pets in the shops here, but I did receive one from the vet's staff after my beautiful cat Boysie's time came.